Unify Operations and Tech for a Superior Customer Experience

Guest Blog by Laura Sikorski

Your policies, processes and technology (CRM system, contact center, front-office and back-office applications) should help customers do business with you. Nothing during their customer journey should cause them confusion or frustration. Regardless of a customer’s touchpoint, there shouldn’t be a point of failure.

Key operations areas within your contact center are forecasting and schedule accuracy, service levels, quality assurance, employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction. In this blog, we’ll cover forecasting and schedule accuracy, service levels, and quality assurance. Because employee satisfaction so closely correlates to customer satisfaction, we’ll cover those specifically in Part 2 of this series.

A successful contact center requires the following factors:

  • Ongoing communication and collaboration with all staff levels
  • Applications that work
  • Accurate information to your staff that’s delivered on time, at the same time, and in the same format
  • KPIs that are shared across your organization
  • A customer experience vision that demonstrates the contact center’s role
  • Shared dashboards with all staff levels and senior management

And you accomplish this by thinking like a customer. Ask your customers what they want and what they expect you to do for them.

  • What do they like?
  • What do they dislike?
  • Why do they go to your website?
  • What do they purchase on eCommerce sites?
  • Where/what can you improve?

Doing this allows you to determine what your competition is doing, what other industries are doing and what internal stakeholders expect. Now, let’s dive deeper into how to put key factors into place.

Forecasting and Schedule Accuracy

Resource planning, scheduling and budgeting are fundamental requirements for operating a successful contact center. And these capabilities are provided in your contact center software’s workforce management (WFM) application.

Forecasting interaction volumes, at least 18 months out, assists with budgetary requirements for staffing and equipment capacity. Knowing the direction your company is going for future products, media campaigns and perhaps acquisitions greatly affects your contact center’s abilities to operate to required SLAs.

Daily, weekly and monthly reports are needed to detail “Actual vs. Forecasted Volume,” and should include which activities affect the variance(s). Supervisors should address any anomalies they find, as these will influence projected scheduling and adherence levels.

Be sure there are alerts when volumes reach outside the norm for the scheduled time periods and have “go-to” plans on how to correct your staffing. If you operate several centers in different time zones, be sure your WFM and technology interaction routing systems can load-balance volumes.

Schedule adherence software is generally provided within the workforce management suite. Creating work schedules to match your workforce and workload with this automated program will assist you in checking if agents are in their seats and answering interactions. Supervisors in smaller centers accomplish this by walking the floor to see if agents are in their seats; however, the cost of this software has come down substantially.

Some of you may think of this software as “big brother” watching. It’s not. It’s helping your supervisors manage their teams rather than reviewing historical information and creating spreadsheet reports. Your agents will be the best they can be as quality analysts and supervisors can provide more training, coaching and staff development.

Service Levels

I cannot stress enough the importance of accessing real-time analytics and using speech analytics to manage your operation. Desktop dashboards for agents, supervisors and management, as well as work-floor wallboards and monitors, detail a set of statistics that measure performance and incoming interaction traffic in real time, usually a 2-4 second update, and historical data using pre-determined time intervals.

My display recommendations are:

  • Service level
  • Calls in queue by queue
  • Longest waiting call in each queue
  • Total calls answered in each queue
  • Total calls abandoned in each queue
  • Average speed of answer in each queue
  • Agent status by name and on what queue
  • Team and agent performance statistics

This information lets you know — at-a-glance — the pulse of your contact center, agent actions and where immediate staffing adjustments are required. Keep in mind: Agents want to know how they’re doing; desktop dashboards for them are paramount.

The report feature in your contact center software monitors and records all performance activity the system generates. It then converts the data into concise, readable database files. These assist in forecasting staff workload and scheduling, and they can be created in a graphical or tabular format.

These packages, based on the vendor, generally provide “canned” standard reports for measuring daily, weekly, monthly and annual activity at various time intervals.

“Custom” reporting lets supervisors or administrators create customized reports for measuring data-specific SLAs.

Contact centers measure:

  • Service (average speed of answer, abandon rates, +)
  • Quality (first-contact resolution, skill levels, +)
  • Efficiency (average handle time, after-call work, +)
  • Profitability (cost per call, conversion rates, +)
  • Employee (turnover, satisfaction, +)
  • Customer satisfaction (surveys, focus groups, +)

However, how did your company decide on which metrics were the right ones for management? And, more importantly, what does management do with the information? Consider implementing a taskforce with appropriate staff to review all current reports — and think about what you want management to know about your contact center.

Quality Assurance

The quality management feature in your contact center software delivers a data warehouse full of actionable insights in the form of reports and analytics. Determining what your staff needs to do their jobs, the services your customers expect and deserve, technology improvements, and buying trends that affect customer behavior all are end products of analytics.

The advent of speech analytics for recorded and live calls is one of the best technology enhancements in recent years. It enables you to tell how angry or happy customers are with your agents and your company. And you can barge in on the call, when necessary, if you’re silently monitoring.

Establishing keywords and phrases in the speech analytics settings helps you determine how well your agents are engaging and responding to customer needs. The tone of agent and customer voices allow you to hear and watch the flow of the interaction. You can dissect a call and its attributes to see strengths and weaknesses of your training programs — and where more coaching is required.

Silent and Real-Time Monitoring

Your agents daily performance is equally as important as listening and evaluating recorded interactions. Silent or real-time monitoring lets you barge in or instant message corrections or kudos to your agents, when necessary. This type of monitoring let you hear customer issues that might be occurring, such as delivery problems, trouble getting through to you on telephone numbers or a website outage. This heads-up enables you to alert the appropriate departments and resolve issues quickly — before they become critical and affect call volume and staffing.

Additionally, you can hear firsthand from your customers and can barge in to immediately thank them for their feedback or praise agents on how they handled an interaction.

A quality review of recorded interactions with your agents improves their performance, which results in outstanding customer experiences. However, it’s also beneficial to use the screen capture that’s offered, albeit sometimes at an additional cost, from your contact center software vendors. This feature lets you see the effectiveness of all the applications your agents use.

For example, you can see:

  • How staff enters data from caller answers
  • If the data entry is in sync with the script sequence of obtaining caller information
  • If there’s sufficient space for interaction notes
  • How time was used in wrap-up sessions, especially detailing the disposition of the interaction

Screen capture lets you expand the quality portion of your agent performance evaluation — typing, listening, speaking, and reading skills — to determine what additional coaching and training is required. You can also determine what enhancements should be made to the applications.

As you can see, it’s critical that operations and technology work together in the contact center to deliver superior customer experiences. In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll look at how a focus on employee experience and performance tools can directly correlate to the customer experience